YRD401: Intermediate Babysitting
Okay, so I’m sitting at this café in the middle of Paris when I find this cute little duck sitting in the chair beside me. Oh, I’m Carla by the way, nice to meet you—okay, we’re probably not gonna actually meet, but you know—I don’t want to be rude. So anyway, I’m alone—a little too alone—so I have nothing better to do than to read all the documents attached to it through the flash drive—the duck in case you forgot already. See, I’m actually from America, and I came to Paris a couple of weeks ago to find some adventure and romance. But I couldn’t find any. It was supposed to be part of my post-graduate plan: finish college, take the summer off, travel Europe, and then return home in the fall to start my career. But without the adventure or romance, I just keep a boring jaunt through foreign cities with nothing to show for my travels except postcards. Big whoop, right?
So like I said, I’m sitting at this café waiting for anything to happen when I look to my left to see the little rubber ducky sitting in the chair next to me. I think, “how cute,” and pick it up to read the notes. Well, the notes in the flash drive. Had to open my computer for that. Then, when I see what the notes are about, I decide to take the duck with me. I figure I’ll keep it until I find my own brand of adventure or romance. I thought I was gonna find the beginning of my romance and adventure at the café when a nice French gentleman held the door open for me, or so I thought he was nice, and French. But I didn’t. The “nice gentleman” just ended up being a sad looking creep who happened to be given a table near me, who spent the first ten minutes staring at me and my duck, mostly at my duck. Had already lost interest in him by then. Whatever. Seemed he found his luck in some judgmental tramp the host had seated him with. By then he had lost interest in me and the duck. Everyone deserves to be happy, so I wish them the best. What happened to me later is more interesting than what happened to me that night anyway, besides finding the duck, of course.
So, I take the duck all over Paris, exploring art museums, visiting parks and touring hotels. But nothing exciting comes about. Tourists take pictures of me, most of them whispering to their friends, “Look at the crazy French girl; she’s carrying a duck.” It’s no more exciting than drinking from a fire hydrant back home. I need more. And up until a few hours ago, I started thinking that I wasn’t going to find my adventure and romance—that my duck companion was just another little yellow trinket to stick me out in the crowd for the wrong reasons. So I wait at a bus stop preparing to leave the duck behind for someone more fortunate to find it.
But I don’t leave the duck. Something snaps in my head. All these people before me had a story to tell, and I’m not about to let them down. So I keep the duck and board the bus. I don’t care where it takes me, as long as it takes me somewhere. I sit in the back just because it’s bumpier back there. A handsome French guy gets on the bus a few stops later and sits next to me. When he smiles and points out how cute he thinks my duck is, it occurs to me that I finally found my adventure and romance. Who cares if he was staring at my boobs the whole time?
So that brings us to the present. Even though the adventure is still in its preparation stage, the romance kicked in about fifteen minutes ago. We both missed our stops a while ago—okay, neither of us really had a stop, we were just looking mutually for random encounters—so we hung out on the bus to make out. I stopped for a few minutes to write my story, but now my story’s finished, so now I can throw the duck into the adjacent seat and hope the next person to stumble across it finds his or her adventure and romance, too. France is so cool.
Johnny was a little annoyed with Carla’s story, he had to admit. But he was also beginning to marvel at the similarities these people had to experiences he saw with his own eyes. He was hesitant to keep reading because it was obvious to him that, for the last couple of months at least, this duck had been following him around. The thought of it gave him a slight shiver down his neck.
Fate had been toying with him, for sure, but now he was starting to think it had never given up control of his life. He glanced to his side to acknowledge the duck’s presence and the journey it had taken to reach him. He was now insanely curious to see where this thing had been, and more importantly, who the genius was who began its journey.
But he had a new surprise in store. The duck had somehow walked away.
Johnny got up from the bench and looked around the immediate area. A few second later, he found the duck resting comfortably in the mouth of a baby who had briefly escaped his parents’ watch and was now crawling back to them.
“Hey, buddy,” Johnny said to the baby, when he approached him. “Can I have my ducky back?”
The baby stopped mid-crawl and looked up at him. Then he cried. The duck fell out of his mouth.
A moment later, as Johnny walked back to his bench with the soggy duck in hand, the baby’s mother came up from behind and confronted him.
“Pardon me,” she said, “but why the bleeding hell do you think it’s okay to make my son cry?”
Johnny stopped and stared back at her dumbfounded.
“Er, pardon?” he said.
She held out her hand.
“Please give my son back his rubber ducky.”
Johnny offered her an awkward smile. Then he drew the duck closer to his chest.
“It’s actually my rubber ducky.”
She folded one arm over her chest and thrust her open hand closer to him. She stamped the grass underfoot for good measure.
“Don’t be daft. What’s a grown man like you coming here with a rubber ducky for?”
“Er, dunno actually. Just found it a little while ago. Reminds me of one I used to have as a child.”
“Yes, you found it in my son’s possession. Doesn’t give you a right to take it.”
“Madam, I didn’t take it from your son. I took it from the floor of a Tube train. Incidentally, you may want to wash out your baby’s mouth.”
The mother reached out for the duck and tried to take it from Johnny’s hand. Johnny resisted her advance.
“Madam, please. It’s my duck.”
“Right, and a grown man is bringing a child’s toy to the park by himself with intent to do what?”
She managed to get her hand on the duck’s chain and began to pull. Johnny tugged harder on the duck just to keep it close.
“Madam, do you not know the toys you brought here with your baby? I assure you this was not among them.”
“I know my son’s toys. Among his blocks and jelly rings, I brought a net that has a momma rubber duck and two baby rubber ducks. You’re trying to steal the momma away.”
“Trust me. I wouldn’t try stealing the momma away. Please let go. This is my duck.”
“I will not let you steal from my baby.”
At this point, Johnny had to go into a deep, dark place he hoped he would never have to venture into. He summoned his masculine strength, which was admittedly weaker than he’d like given his age and gender, and tugged on the duck so hard that he ripped the chain around its neck right out of the woman’s hands. Then he dashed for his park bench as quickly as he could and grabbed the laptop before she could catch him. The woman was a fast runner, of course, maybe even faster than him, had his adrenaline not spiked in that moment. But, in the footrace for the park’s exit, he had one advantage over her: she would’ve been a terrible mother if she were to leave her baby behind just to catch Johnny, and she was definitely Mother of the Year right now. Johnny almost respected her, if not for the blatant oversight she had regarding the chain around the duck’s neck. How daft was she to believe that her baby’s toys came with easy-to-swallow necklace chains?
Johnny slowed to a jog when he got out of the park, and down again to a walk when he got a block out of range. Then he headed for a courtyard a bit more down the street to pick up on the next story. Only, when he got there, he noticed his laptop’s battery was giving out. He wouldn’t have enough time to read the rest of the documents without a recharge, and his charger was buried deep in his suitcase. He also had nowhere to plug it into.
Fortunately, he found an Internet café a few blocks down the next street. He paid a small fee to use its computers and continued to read there.